In recent decades, a new type of refugees has increased massively. These are the environmental refugees, millions of people who had to leave their place of life due to environmental disasters or climatic crises. By 1995, the Red Cross estimated the number of “ecological” refugees at 500 million worldwide, and by 2050 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees predicted 250 million further climate refugees.
At present, however, there is an international legal void in terms of recognizing environmental and climate refugees, who have no status to serve as a legal basis for the recognition and protection of their rights.
The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, concluded in Geneva on 28 July 1951 by the contracting parties of the United Nations and reference in the matter, makes no mention does not mention victims of disasters or environmental degradation. The very term “refugee” is problematic, as the majority of “environmental displaced” do not cross borders, so they cannot be included in the Geneva Convention.
Since 1985, however, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) provides a definition to serve as a milestone for this issue.
Environmental Refugees are considered as:
“Those who are forced to leave their place of residence temporarily or permanently because of an environmental rupture (of natural or human origin) that has endangered their existence or seriously affected their living conditions”
Thus, the concept of “environmental refugee” encompasses both natural-caused migrations like extreme climatic hazards such as rising water levels or desertification, as well as human factors such as soil pollution and accidents or the consequences of devastating land-use policies. So we are not only talking about “climate refugees” since the ecological footprint of man is the first cause of global warming and dramatic humanitarian situations which are seen everywhere on our planet.
REVI contributes to the recognition of the status and rights of environmental refugees by a multi-level program.
As part of this mission, we are committed to three areas of intervention: to raise awareness of environmental migration through the publication of climate reports; to disseminate and increase scientific research in the field; and to support environmental refugees by facilitating their social inclusion in their host country.